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Tipping the Scale: BOLD & GOLD II

In the era of Bold & Gold, scale was over the top. Everything was big and many times larger than life. If the piece donned an acanthus leaf carving, it was done with the real size of the actual leaf at 16 inches long and 10 inches wide, and done in gilt. No wonder columns made a fierce return (next to four-car garages). And we all had to wear shades.

Later in the 90's, the hair relaxed, the excess exhausted itself, and we shifted into a new era. The scale tipped from XXL (Or XXXL in some cases) to a more moderate human scale. Neoclassicism breezed in and stayed a while. Environmental intimacy returned.

In a way, this re-emergence was more aligned with historical royalty. If you were to visit Versailles and see the king's actual sleeping quarters, you'd find that he rested in a room behind a room. It was a relatively small space, a clean environment. See, they weren't able to heat up the palatial beds so those rooms were actually fronts for cozier and more pragmatic spaces. Marie Antoinette's apartments are a great example. They were also so small, you'd actually want to squeeze their cheeks. They called it the Petit Trionon, a 300 square foot space where she felt more comfortable. Royalty and petite co-existed in harmony.

We are following course today. With urban density, people are living in smaller spaces. Even the wealthy have their little pied de terre - and with that, less exaggerated and more scaled-down design. It's at this juncture that we locate the roots of Danish and Swedish Modern through Gustav III. In fact, it was Gustav III of Sweden who went incognito to France on “Le grand tour" specifically to take in French and Italian design. He went as a commoner and spent several months in Paris. What he saw fused into what he created - Gustaviansk furniture.

Even contemporary royalty follows this logic. Queen Elizabeth lives in a shoebox most of the time. The Balmoral Castle is exquisite because, among other traits, the inside is small and intimate. Even the furniture is pared down for comfort at a scale designed for living. For every photograph of her perched in a grand parlor, in her private castle is a delicate trinket, from seashell to ephemeral letter.



Set of 8 Gustaviansk Painted Sidechairs

Circa 1790

We are proud to be offering this exquisite set of Gustaviansk side chairs. As we mentioned, Gustav III stole away to Paris unnoticed to study their design, and these are perfect illustrations of what he came up with. Impeccably restored by the Stockholm Museum and acquired just last week, these represent the fulcrum point between the wane of Bold and Gold and the rise of Neoclassicism, birthing what we know of as Danish and Swedish modern. At first glance, you are convinced that these are 1920's, and then you look underneath the seat, and see the hand hewn quality and the thickness of the frame is much thicker than it is today. And with that, we thank the dry and cold climate of Northern Europe. Gustav did his own little take on these seats. We begin with the white paint signature to the region, famed for its ability to reflect light, light so direly needed in the epic and long winters of the North. Each carved surface contributed to this strategy as well: every apron bead, column, and foliage motif. Coupled with what was originally bone-white paint, they reflected as much light as possible. It was an earnest attempt at disco balls in the 1790's. Later on, and with the advent of more light, this decorative functionality gave way to the ultra-minimal Swedish modern look. And we see those seeds here as well. The shield shaped back, though a direct copy of the French, is cleaner and simpler than it's inspiration, as is the paired down seat. It was still a time for big dresses, so the seat is overscaled to the back, more of a perch than a lean-in. We imagine perpetual dusks with the maidens upright, light shimmering to its best ability, beckoning a tranquility. As always, we trace the surfaces, the construction, and the finishing to its roots and listen to the conversations in design that trace back millennia. For example, the Garrya husk foliage, refers to Pompeii and Herculaneum. That foliage truly had the longest design career of all traveling all the way from near-ancient Italy through Mediterranean and Western Europe to, in this case, the northern seas of Sweden.


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